Delta Dreaming: Witnesses

            There is a highway that runs from Memphis, Tennessee to Little Rock, Arkansas through the Delta and it deserves the name “Highway of Dreams.” It is U.S. Highway 70, known locally as “Old Seventy,” and must have served every dreamer that left Nashville or Memphis looking for fame and glory.

            Unless you love the rich, fertile Delta you might not appreciate the quiet beauty of the cotton, soybean, rice, and—increasingly—corn fields that line the highway, interrupted at times by wetland swamps, rivers, and by Crowley’s Ridge at Forrest City. But it is a wondrous place.

            Confederate troops marched the highway’s route, crossing the river at DeValls Bluff as they headed to attack Helena, Arkansas in an attempt to relieve the pressure on Vicksburg. My great-grandfather, George Harris, waited for them there with the First Indiana Cavalry ... yep, a yankee regiment.

And yes, De Valls Bluff  was the site of the original Murray’s Catfish place. If you are anybody in Arkansas over the age of 40, you have probably dined there. And yes, that same city now houses Craig’s where they serve perhaps the best barbecue in the world and Miss Lena’s Pies, a must stop on a “Blues Festival Road Trip.”

And speaking of good food, let us not slight “Nick’s” at Carlisle, a favorite of the frequent travelers of Interstate 40 that parallels our highway.

But these places weren’t on Old Seventy when Elvis Presley and the Bill Black group made their pilgrimages west, or when Hank Williams traveled to Little Rock to appear at the Robinson Auditorium in the early 50s. I was there and saw him. I only wish I could remember more about it.

There are just a few witnesses left, places where one might have sat on the front porch and waved at the famous and near famous driving by as they followed their dreams. The old “shotgun” house pictured below still stands near the Parkin exit, a silent guardian of the old memories. And the white structure that housed the infamous 11-70 Club, sits right outside Hazen. It is said that Bob Dylan once dropped in there to jam with The Band.

And yes, Hazen is near the site of the legendary nightclub called “Bunker Hill.” Only a general location is known, and little else because, even in the old days, few would admit to having ever been there.

I could go on and on. Maybe I will. And maybe someday someone will write a book about the “Highway of Dreams.” The ghosts are anxious, I suspect, to tell their story.

 

What sights one might have seen from this porch.
What sights one might have seen from this porch.

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